Red Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma)

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Sometimes life hands you lemons. Kernels of sourness. Little moments or truths or revelations that just make you pucker up and shake your head in disbelief. Like really universe? This is what you’re going to throw my way? You want to laugh and cry at the same time, on one hand feeling frustrated with the parade of disappointments, but on the other cherishing these moments for the inevitable memoir that will surely entertain the masses. In any case, I’ve learned that it’s best to take the Buddhist path in these instances – let go, live in the here and now and don’t sweat the future. Call up a good friend, shed a few tears, eat a cupcake, then laugh at the audacity of life. Good food helps. Especially a dish that warms from within to chase away the winter chill and nourishes your body with plant-based goodness that pairs plenty of exotic (but easy to find) spices with otherwise simple ingredients. This red kidney bean curry is known as rajma and hails from Northern India. Now let me qualify that a Polish-born Canadian girl making a very traditional Indian curry might take some  liberties with the recipe so this may or may not actually resemble what a real rajma looks or tastes like, but nevertheless I love (LOVE) the results. In fact, now that I think of it, I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually eaten authentic rajma. I’ve heard lots about it from friends and the families of South Asian decent that I counsel in my role as a dietitian (apparently rajma is a beloved dish for many children.) I’ve read and researched plenty of recipes when I decided to make my own many years ago – I can only guess at how close mine is to the real thing. In any case, as I said, the recipe that follows creates a beautiful, spiced dish that satisfies.

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Red kidney beans are part of the pulse family (which includes beans, peas and lentils) and Canada is the world’s second largest grower of this nutrient-packed bunch (right after India). Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec grow hundreds of varieties and exports are a billion dollar industry! Talk about home-grown gold. Pulse Canada does an amazing job curating recipes, factsheets and lots  of great information about pulses – please check out their website. While 2016 was the Year of Pulses,  they are not going anywhere. In fact, pulses are gaining popularity and a larger share of the real estate on our plates. And this is no surprise really, they are incredibly cheap, versatile, brimming with protein and nutrients and hailed as a sustainable crop. The future is pulses! Did I mention the nutrients??

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I used canned kidney beans for this recipe but give dried beans a chance too. They just require soaking overnight, then a quick rinse and boiling the next day. Mostly idle work. I make big batches at a time then store in zip top bags in the freezer. Check out cooking guidelines for various pulses here. I should  also say give (dried) peas a chance as well. Hehe.  

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Red Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma)

Serves 4

Prep Time 15 minutes

Cook Time 30-35 minutes

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons avocado oil, or other neutral tasting oil (grapeseed, canola)

1 medium/large sweet onion, roughly chopped

4-5 cloves of garlic

2 inch chunk of ginger, peeled

1 Tablespoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh red chile, or to taste

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

4 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 (19oz/540ml) cans of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 1/2 cups water

Cooked grain of your choice (rice, quinoa, sorghum, millet) or flatbread, for serving

Chopped fresh cilantro, lime wedges and chopped red chile to garnish (optional)

Directions:

1. Add ginger and garlic cloves to bowl of food processor and process until finely chopped (about 30 seconds). Add onion to the minced ginger and garlic and pulse until chopped. Alternatively, if you don’t have a food processor, mince ginger and garlic, and finely chop onion with a knife.

2. Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium heat, add ginger, garlic and onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 3-5 minutes.

3. Add in cumin seeds, red pepper flakes or red chile, garam masala, turmeric, coriander, salt and pepper, stir to combine and  cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

4. Add in chopped tomatoes, including any juices, stir to combine, and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until liquid has mostly evaporated and the oil starts to release from the mixture. Reduce heat to medium-low if mixture starts to bubble too fast and sticks to the pan.

5. Add in kidney beans and water, stir to  combine, cover with lid slightly askew (to allow steam to escape) and cook for about 8-10 minutes until curry thickens, stir from time to time to make sure curry does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Take off the heat. If desired, using a potato masher, mash some of the kidney beans in one corner of the pot; this will thicken the sauce a little bit while keeping most of the kidney beans whole.

6. Serve with cooked grains or flatbread and garnish with toppings as desired.

Tips:

You can add more water to the curry after the last step if you prefer a thinner consistency.

You can buy all the spices at a bulk store if you prefer to buy smaller amounts.

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Kitchen Treasures

First of all, has it already been five weeks? Over a months since my siblings and I started our veg challenge? Wow. I have been living the vegan life for 35 days thus far and I feel it becoming part of who I am not just something I’m doing. I remember at first I used to announce the milestones to anyone in my vicinity with pride, awe, surprise.

“It’s been a day!”

“A week in and so far so good!”

“Two weeks and still alive.”

But truth be told, today I actually had to look up when we all jumped aboard this journey. I just could not recollect how many weeks it had actually been.  It seems that the “how long” has stopped mattering. I feel a big part of this has been the fact that along the way my passion and excitement in the kitchen has been re-ignited and I have been head-over-heels giddy with all the new culinary discoveries that I have made.

Now, in all fairness I have always been one of those strange people that enjoy grocery shopping. Not the kind where you rush into the store, exhausted after work to pick up a missing ingredient or two to make a meal for a crowd that you invited over in a moment of utter amnesiac-like stupor. I’m talking the kind of shopping you can do with coffee cup in hand, languidly perusing the aisles in search of new treasures. Sorry, did I just make anyone gag a bit? But it’s true. Many a shopping trip have landed me in possession of some new exotic or never before owned ingredient awaiting gastronomic exploration. Or, in some scenarios, I have found myself searching high and low for a novel food element that I had discovered in a cookbook, conversation or show.

So opening the Pandora box of veganomics has certainly led me to acquire and try a bunch of fresh kitchen wares. Here are some favourites:

Millet:

I have long been on-board of the increasingly more crowded quinoa train. But I came across millet in a few vegan recipes and decided it was time to expand my grain repertoire. I like it a lot. I’ve used it as a base for a breakfast porridge, in a mushroom soup and as a side dish. Will continue to have this as a staple in my pantry for sure!

 

Nutritional Yeast:

Hello flavor! And nutrition! Nutritional yeast is a go-to ingredient in a lot of veganized recipes. It imparts a deep, pungent flavor. Hard to describe but the word umami comes to mind. I’ve put it in dishes like soup, spreads, scrambled tofu and an eggless egg salad. Rock on!

Dried Legumes:

Legumes (beans, lentils and chickpeas) have made many appearances in my pre-veg cuisine. Most often, except in the case of lentils, I would reach for the canned versions. Over the last few weeks, however, I decided to give dried a spin. And let me tell you, there is nothing scary about them. You soak them overnight and the next day you let them bubble away for about an hour, give or take a bit depending on the variety, while you go on with other business. The resulting tidbits are more flavorful, have better texture and for some reason they are, at least for me, easier to digest. Plus you do save some bucks doing the dried. Winners all around.

 

Sugars:

I was pretty surprised to hear that your garden variety sugar is often processed using animal bone char (it is used to filter out the impurities). Consequently, many vegans choose other alternatives. In lieu of the usual white stuff, my pantry is now stocked with Sucanat, organic sugar, agave and maple syrup. Oh yeah and coconut sugar. Cool, eh? I have to say, these processed white sugar alternatives have such unique, awesome flavours…who knew there was a world beyond the white??

 

Whole Foods 365 Almond Milk:

I have been using cow’s milk alternatives for far longer than I can remember. I’ve tried a few brands of almond milk and had settled on one brand in particular. Then I found out something concerning. It turns out that many products on grocery shelves, including the variety of almond milk I was consuming, contain an ingredient called carrageenan. Apparently not so great for your gut. So I started a search for something more GI-friendly and settled on Whole Foods 365 brand. Mmm. I use the vanilla, original and unsweetened varieties.

The next step is making my own!

 

Earth Balance:

Because sometimes you just want some buttery toast. Or mashed potatoes. Or popcorn. Earth Balance is a vegan margarine that is referred to by name in all the vegan cookbooks and sites that I have come across. Yummy, buttery goodness.

 

Food for Life Ezekiel Breads and Wraps:

I have not quite joined the gluten-is-the-root-of-all-evil party. But I do strongly feel that many of the sandwich building blocks available to us, despite the “whole” or “multi” labels slapped on them, are made with far too refined grains. As such, Food for Like Ezekiel is my go to brand. Their goods are made with whole, sprouted grains and the results are delicious. Currently in my freezer you will find the Ezekiel Sesame Whole Grain Sprouted bread, Sprouted Whole Grain tortillas and Sprouted Corn tortillas. They are kept in the freezer as they don’t contain any preservatives to extend their shelf life. A quick spin in the toaster or microwave and they’re good to go. Sooo nutritious and delicious!

Okay I will stop here. For now. I have a million other things to share with you, dear readers, so I will do more posts like this.

But in the meantime please, do share! What is your favourite vegan food or ingredient in your kitchen right now? Sharing is caring, after all 😉

wishing you a blissful, peaceful Sunday afternoon,

ilona